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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: state parks

Poll on parks fees, and how much they’d raise…

A new poll re: possible tax increases to support state parks comes back with these results:

-$5 fee to park at parks and trails? 55 percent support, 43 percent don’t.

-an (unspecificed) tax on motor homes and campers? 52 percent support, 43 percent don’t.

-A 1-cent-per-$1,000-value property tax increase (i.e. $2.50 on a $250k home)? 46 percent support, 50 percent don’t.

-A $5-a-year increase in vehicle license tabs? (No mention made of the fact that this would be a voluntary charge, which is what lawmakers are talking about): 40 percent support, 56 percent don’t.

The poll was commissioned by Citizens for Parks and Recreation. Below is coordinator Jim King’s explanation of where the proposed tax ideas came from and why the car-tab one didn’t include the “opt-out” provision.

But first, how much money would these things raise, anyway? From King:

-The day use/parking fees were raising about $8 million per biennium when they were discontinued in 2006.
-The RV tax would raise just under $40 million per biennium.
-The one cent per thousand dollars of assessed valuation property tax would raise about $18 million per biennium.
-The $5 license tab fee raises about $5.6 million per biennium for every ten percent of vehicle owners who choose to pay- $28 million per biennium if 50% pay, $22.4 million if 40% choose to pay, etc.

And from his letter:

To all persons interested in our State Parks:

Attached are the results from polling done a week ago, looking for some data on various state parks funding options that have been considered in recent years.  The day-use, or parking, fee was in place from 2003 into 2006; the RV tax was considered in 2003 as a recommendation of the State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Funding Task Force that met during the 2002 interim; the “penny for parks” proposal has been advanced by Senator Mary Margaret Haugen and others in recent years; and the $5 car tabs is currently the leading option under consideration for filling some of the gap in State Parks funding.

We specifically did not ask whether people supported or opposed the “opt-out” car tab proposal, but instead tried to measure support for paying a $5 car tab, because what is important in that discussion is not whether people would support or oppose an ability to “opt-out” but whether or not people would be willing to pay the additional $5 car tab.

UPDATE: Jason Mercier, at the Washington Policy Center, forwarded this set of recommendations from the last time the state was trying to figure out how to keep parks open in the face of a big budget shortfall.

The report urges daily fees, and would vary the cost by how nice/popular the park is. It’s silly, the report suggests, to have a carload of six pay the same price at a popular park on Labor Day weekend as some loner pays to trudge through the rain at a tiny, little-used park in April.

What about low-income families? The report suggests corporate sponsorships, coupons from local businesses, free access for children who qualify for free school lunches, and discounted days.

“With these complementary actions, Parks and Recreation Commissioners and State Legislators secure the future of Washington’s state parks, while keeping faith with park users and other taxpayers,” wrote report author Jeff Hanson.

In the face of a $10-$23 million budget cut, state trying to decide which parks to close…

Back in December, Gov. Chris Gregoire called on the state Parks and Recreation Commission to come up with 10 percent in budget savings over the next two years. Lawmakers have now asked to see what a 23 percent budget cut would look like. Neither is final, but the statehouse clearly wants to see what deep cuts to parks (and higher ed, etc.) would look like.

At the $10 million level, parks officials have drawn up plans to cut staff, postpone equipment purchases and to try to get rid of 13 state parks. Those parks, ideally, would be given to local cities or counties to take care of. Two other parks would be closed.

Here’s that list:

Parks Proposed for Transfer

1.Bogachiel State Park
2.Brooks Memorial State Park
3.Fay Bainbridge State Park
4.Fort Okanogan State Park
5.Fort Ward State Park
6.Joemma Beach State Park
7.Kopachuck State Park
8.Lake Sylvia State Park
9.Old Fort Townsend State Park
10.Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial State Park
11.Schafer State Park
12.Tolmie State Park
13.Wenberg State Park

Parks Proposed to be Mothballed: 

1.    Nolte State Park
2.    Squilchuck State Park.

At the $23 million cut level, things get even more dramatic. Instead of getting rid of yet more

Detailing the cuts…

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s two-year budget plan, released Thursday, suggests closing a $5.7 billion budget shortfall with deep cuts.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest cuts, local cuts, and some new local spending:

Education:

-do away with cost-of-living raises for teachers and other school staffers for the next two years: $349 million.

-eliminate a variety of school pilot programs, including the reading corps, civics curriculum, and math helping corps: $23 million.

-”suspend” about a quarter of the money for class-size reduction: $178 million.

Higher Education:

-across-the-board cuts of up to 13 percent at four-year colleges and 6 percent at community and technical colleges. The colleges can decide what to cut, although effects may include cutting faculty, cutting support staff and offering fewer classes. Savings: $342 million.

-doing away with faculty and staff cost-of-living raises at community and technical colleges: $33.4 million.

Human services:

-do away with the Adult Day Health program, which serves about 1,900 elderly and developmentally disabled people: $20 million.

-reduce nursing home reimbursement rates by 5 percent: $46 million.

-shrink mental health funding for Regional Support Networks: $31 million.

-toughen accountability for welfare recipients and push them into jobs quicker: $30 million.

Health care:

-stop buying vaccines for children not covered by Medicaid: $50 million.

-cut the state’s Basic Health Plan for the working poor by 42 percent and shrink the things it will cover.

-halt plans to let parents buy state-subsidized health coverage if they’re between 250 percent and 300 percent of poverty level. For a family of 4, that’s $53,000 to $63,600 per year. Savings: $6 million.

-eliminate General Assistance for the Unemployable, which provides health care and issues checks of up to $339 a month to thousands of people. Savings: $251 million.

-cut hospital reimbursement rates by 4 percent: $47 million.

Natural resources:

-close 7 fish hatcheries: $7 million.

-close 13 state parks, plus other parks during off-peak seasons: $5 million.

Law enforcement:

-shortening probation and eliminating probation supervision for misdemeanors and low-risk felonies: $69 million.

-shrinking drug and alcohol treatment: $11 million.

What are the 13 state parks targeted for closure?

Here’s the list:

Lake Osoyoos

Brooks Memorial

Bogachiel

Tolmie

Fay Bainbridge

Fort Okanogan

Wenberg

Fort Ward

Joemma Beach

Kopachuck

Lake Sylvia

Old Fort Townsend

Squilchuck

Nolte

and the Camp Moran environmental learning program.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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